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I am interested in becoming certified in either addictions or case management. With my background, do I qualify for either of these certifications?

Monday August 27, 2012
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Dear Donna,

I have been an RN with a BSN for 23 years and an LPN for 13 years before that. I am interested in becoming certified in either addictions or case management. I have a personal interest in addictions. I am currently unable to work, because of an injury from an auto accident. My license is current, and I did work as a case manager for more than two years. Can I qualify for either of these certifications?

Unable to work

Dear Donna replies:

Dear Unable to work,

There are many different certification programs for case management, and at least one for addictions nursing. However, without any recent experience in either specialty, I'm not sure you would qualify. Rather than focusing on certification, focus on building a related professional network, building your expertise in either specialty though continuing education and then getting related experience when you are ready to get back to work.

Many nurses believe they need to be certified before working in a specialty. The truth is experience trumps certification in most situations. If you don’t have any experience, you need to find an entry-level position, usually via networking. Start doing informational interviewing with nurses who work in addictions and then, when you are able, attend local chapter meetings of either the Case Management Society of America (www.cmsa.org) or the International Nurses Society on Addictions (www.intnsa.org), as a guest for now. When there's something you want to do, it makes sense to rub elbows with those already doing it. Since you’re interested in addictions nursing and have not worked in that specialty before, do some informational interviewing (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Interviewing) with nurses working in that specialty. Find them through the above association or by asking around.

Read “Picking up the pieces of your career” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Pieces), “Working with a disability” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/Disability) and “How to change specialties” (www.Nurse.com/Cardillo/ChangeSpecialties).

Be sure to check with your primary care provider and Social Security disability counselor, if applicable, to be sure you are cleared for either employment or volunteer work when the time comes.

Best wishes,

Donna Cardillo, RN, MA, well-known career guru, is Nurse.com’s “Dear Donna” and author of “Your First Year as a Nurse: Making the Transition from Total Novice to Successful Professional” and “The ULTIMATE Career Guide for Nurses: Practical Advice for Thriving at Every Stage of Your Career.” Information about the books is available at www.Nurse.com/CE/7010 and www.Nurse.com/CE/7250, respectively. To ask Donna your question, go to www.Nurse.com/Asktheexperts/Deardonna. Find a “Dear Donna” seminar near you: Call 800-866-0919 or visit http://Events.nursingspectrum.com/Seminar.